Fake SD Cards: Widespread Fraud Proves Dangerous to Data

Eurobsit, 2019-03-12

Used in mobile phones, tablets, cameras and many connected devices, Secure Digital (SD) cards are all around us, even though we may not always see them. The tools, used to store digital information, are essential for saving data and keeping our portable electronics running smoothly. As multimedia explodes and equipment becomes ever smaller, SD cards have become an essential component of our digital environment.

An increased demand for smartphones in developing nations, as well as the voracious production of visual content for social media, has exponentially expanded the need for data storage systems, which has created a rich market for SD card manufacturers. According to a recent study from Persistence Market Research (PMR), the SD card market was worth nearly $8 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow significantly, up to $8.9 billion by the end of 2022.

A Market Targeted by Counterfeiting

As the demand for SD cards grows, however, so does the problem of counterfeit cards with falsified storage capacities; this is quickly becoming one of the greatest challenges facing the SD card market. Indeed, according to an engineer at SanDisk, the world leader in the sector, nearly a third of SD cards bearing the brand’s logo of the brand could be counterfeit. The magnitude of the problem is due to the fact that it is highly difficult to tell real and fake memory cards apart; the fraud is not visible, but rather at the software level. To the eye, counterfeit cards appear as almost perfect copies of the market’s two main players: Samsung and SanDisk.

Differentiating between original and counterfeit products is so notoriously difficult that online sales have become the preferred distribution channel for fake SD cards. According to a survey of complaints done by the website The Counterfeit Report, 66% of red flags for counterfeit products came from a sale done through eBay, and 28.5% through Amazon.

The Consequences of Purchasing Counterfeit Cards

Counterfeit data storage is particularly problematic because it poses a threat to data. The writing speed of a counterfeit card is generally not as good as its labelled to be. More significantly, the card typically has a smaller storage capacity than it claims, which can mean a loss of data. The inconvenience can be truly dramatic, particularly for professional photographers and videographers, who are important buyers of SD cards.

The procedure is fairly simple: a card’s software is falsified such that it appears to have a greater storage capacity than it actually does. As long as this capacity is not actually exceeded, the only inconvenience will be the product’s slow speed. But once it reaches capacity, the card will automatically overwrite the previously recorded files, replacing them with the newer ones. Consumers lose files without even realizing what is happening.

How to Recognize a Fake SD Card

Recognizing fake SD cards is extremely difficult, as originals and fakes are nearly identical, and packaging is copied to perfection. Buying SD cards, then, requires taking a few precautions.

The first indicator is the selling price of the card. If the offer seems too good to be true, check the reliability of the seller. You should always buy memory cards from authorized resellers, and avoid third-party sellers with bad ratings on online platforms.

The second indicator is the writing speed. If the card writes too slowly, it’s likely counterfeit. Software exists which can verify a card’s operation and thus its validity.

If you’re unsure of a card’s validity, simply avoid using it altogether, or at least avoid using it to save important files, as you may risk corrupting or losing them.